Magazine article The Spectator

Gentlemen Lift the Seat

Magazine article The Spectator

Gentlemen Lift the Seat

Article excerpt

That its publishers should describe this book, little more than 20,000 words in length, as a novel, is the equivalent of a firm of caterers describing a canape as a meal. But just as many people would prefer a dollop of caviar on a dry biscuit to a steak-and-kidney pudding, so many people would no doubt prefer this pungent little tale to more sustaining but stodgier fare.

For most of the time Warwick Collins's setting is, as his title indicates, what the genteel used once to call a public convenience and now call a public toilet, what the blurb mistakenly calls a public urinal, and what the gay of this country call a cottage and the gay of America a tea-room. Three black men work in it as attendants.

Whether Warwick Collins has also worked in such a place or even observed one closely, I rather doubt. Had he done so, some of the events of his story might have been more convincing. It is unlikely, for example, that even the most improvident of London councils, a Lambeth or an Islington, would employ three people simultaneously in a public lavatory composed of 17 cubicles; that homosexuals would choose a place so over-staffed for their blatant assignations; and that, when these assignations have provoked protests from scandalised members of the public, a female member of the council and not a police officer would come to investigate.

The homosexuals, who from time to time `pop out of a single cubicle like two rabbits out of the same hat', are defiantly reckless, until the attendants, warned by the council official that the establishment will be closed if such misconduct continues, take to harassing them by banging on the flimsy doors or by poking sticks under them. The attendants are convinced that this kind of aberrant sex is, with rare exceptions, confined to 'Whitey' - a view easily refuted by a visit to any London gay pub or club. …

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